A randomized controlled trial examining the impact of individual trauma-focused therapy for individuals receiving group treatment for depression

Sarah Dominguez, Peter Drummond, Bethanie Gouldthorp, Diana Janson, Christopher William Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Adverse life events are associated with increased likelihood of depression and poorer prognosis. Trauma-focused treatments (TFT) appear to be effective in decreasing comorbid depressive symptoms. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a TFT on the memories of aversive events for individuals with a primary diagnosis of depression. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 49 participants recruited from a 10-day outpatient group programme. All participants showed symptoms of depression with a subgroup (80%) meeting the DSM-5 criteria for a major depressive episode. Participants received treatment as usual (TAU); three additional individual trauma-focused sessions; or three additional individual assertiveness training sessions. Participants were assessed with regards to depression diagnosis and related symptoms. Results: For participants with a major depressive episode, the addition of trauma-focused sessions significantly increased the likelihood of remission when compared to TAU, or additional assertiveness training. While no significant treatment difference was noted in depressive symptom change post-treatment, six weeks after treatment those who received an adjunct treatment were more likely to maintain treatment gains than those who received TAU. Furthermore, at 12-week follow-up, participants who received a TFT reported significantly fewer depressive symptoms than those who received assertiveness training. Conclusions: While differences in outcomes were minimal immediately post-treatment, differences among treatment groups increased over time. Thus, as few as three additional TFT sessions may impact positively on symptom change for people completing a group programme for the treatment of depression. Practitioner points: Depression is the greatest cause of disability worldwide. Adverse experiences are linked with an increased likelihood of depression, more severe symptoms and poor treatment outcomes following evidence-based interventions. As few as three trauma-focused sessions can improve treatment outcomes in terms of depression diagnosis and related symptoms for individuals receiving group cognitive behavioural therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology and Psychotherapy: theory, research and practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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